Monday, November 15, 2010

Ashes: History is the only thing going for Australia

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Cricket is an unpredictable game; as long as we are talking about it being played outside the Ashes. When it comes to the Ashes, no one ever went broke (in the last couple of decades) backing Australia especially in Australia. England make all the right noises, focus all their resources to winning it as part of the build-up; which starts even before the itinerary is finalized but when the thing actually starts, Australia usually do all the talking, even if they are losing. Which is rare...the losing part that is.

For this year's edition however, it may be tricky to place a bet on the winner. The way the Australians have gone about selecting their squad for the first test would put a fifth grader to shame. Actually, it's not so much as shameful as it suggests "compromise" amongst the various decision makers and frankly Australians aren't conditioned to operate that way; at least on the field of play. Greg Chappell, sure has a way to stir things up. Most of the time he makes matters worse. My money though is firmly on Australia. Actually not firmly but...lets just say blindly.

So here is some considered, often repeated and mundane analysis on offer. No off-spinner has succeeded in Australia. The English bowlers are sort of like Tiger Woods without his mistresses on the bouncy pitches of Australia devoid of seam. Cook, Bell and Pietersen are not exactly Chris Broad, David Gower and Alan Lamb of 1986. You need an Ian Botham or a lesser sperm count version of him; Andrew Flintoff; to win an Ashes. All this is supposed to mean that England can't win or have not fully earned the right to be labelled favorites.

At the same time the turmoil in Australian ranks is hard to ignore. Well its not that they are exactly in turmoil, but I am not underestimating the ability of Greg Chappell. Surely the lack of talent in Australian ranks cannot defend history when it was raw talent in the first place that helped construct such a formidable record at Home in the Ashes. Granted, England haven't won a "live" match in Australia since Ian Botham retired, but these days even an Ishant Sharma with the bat is good enough to make the Australians not want to win. Stuart Broad ought to be more than handy for England. Even a "flush with cash" Pakistani outfit were unable to lose against Australia during the English summer. All this is supposed to mean that Australia can't be favorites either.

If you read the English media, you would feel that England steam rolled the West Indies, South Africa on tours and that their wins against Bangladesh was against India disguised as the Banglas and that the match fixing scandal during the summer subjected them to torture as evil as water boarding. England have worked themselves up to such a frenzy, even before the act, that they might ejaculate prematurely.

That aside, there are a million reasons why England ought to win the Ashes and I can't find many; other than history of course; that suggests Australia can win. Between a team that has developed a knack of losing from any conceivable position and a team that takes immense pride in their ability to force a draw in the face of any target, one of them has to enter uncharted territory.

Whatever the result some things are easy to predict. The series will be used to extol the virtues of Test Cricket. Every England draw will be used to describe how a draw is "as good as a win". Irrespective of the result the series will be hailed as the much needed tonic to heal cricket from the ills of corruption and none of the other 5 teams playing will object to what it infers. (Pakistan have lost the right to be above suspicion) The UDRS will be sold and resold to everyone who is not listening, even if only 5% of the decisions are made by the men supposed to be in charge. Other than the winner much will play out according to script.


Ganesh said...

I believe,the India-South Africa series will be more exciting than Ashes.

Golandaaz said...

I believe it will be, but cricinfo and the media won't be able to look beyond the game redeeming ashes